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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
How good is Jerryd Bayless?

By Beckley Mason

There are all sorts of reasons why talented, previously successful players might not fulfill their ability in the NBA. Over at HoopSpeak, Brett Koremenos zeroes in on a particular issue: how NBA players must find the correct balance between the ambition and drive that got them to the best league in the world and acceptance of their limitations at the NBA level.

Koremenos focuses on new Grizzly Jerryd Bayless, who last season showed potential to be a very productive player. There’s just one problem: He plays like the star he was in high school and college.
The issue might be Bayless's mentality, not technique.

The long 2 is the shot shared both by the superstar and high-volume, inefficient scorer. Superstars are destined to have that shot in their arsenal due to the heavy burden forced upon them. Whether it’s a called isolation or unavoidable heave after a poorly executed possession, star players will always be prone to taking more of these shots.

A number of good but not great offensive players are held back by their inability to swap these shots for more efficient looks. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For players like Josh Smith, there’s a frustrating willingness to chuck the kind of shot that doesn’t guarantee them the most success. Monta Ellis, though, might best embody the mentality Bayless must avoid. Ellis plays as if it in his DNA to play the part of a star and his shot selection reflects as much.

Any other improvements Bayless makes won’t the desired impact if he doesn’t learn to navigate this very fine line.

For those with the skill set of Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant, long 2s are acceptable and often required. Too many from a non-star and he becomes Nick Young. To have a real chance to take his production to a higher level, Bayless must not only reevaluate when and how often he utilizes the long 2, but who he needs to become in order to be an efficient player. A failure to recognize this reality likely dooms him to mediocrity.

Simply put, to move closer to being a star, Jerryd Bayless needs to realize he can’t afford to play like one.

That’s hard advice to hear.

Like many players in the NBA, Bayless is better at basketball than most anyone is at anything. But to be his best, he needs to realize he isn’t the top player around anymore. When he joins Memphis, he'll be more like the sixth-best player on his own team.

There are certain teams that seem to do a better job of helping players find their place in the league than others. San Antonio, in particular, is famous for unearthing quality, cheap talent from the NBA scrap heap.

It’s not just that the Spurs put an emphasis on player development, but coach Gregg Popovich is as good as there is in the NBA when it comes to defining roles for his players -- stars and fringe guys alike.

Players with serious talent like Danny Green, who might drift within other franchises, are put on a steady course and excel as a result.

What will happen when Bayless joins Memphis and likely steps into the role vacated by O.J. Mayo?

Mayo is a better jump shooter than Bayless and struggled to find driving angles in Memphis because the Grizzlies don’t have many shooters who can pull defenders from the paint. It doesn't seem like a recipe for Bayless to take a big step forward, regardless of his outlook.

We tend to lay whether a player succeeds to the fullest of his ability at the feet of the player. But as we see in the case of Bayless, NBA success often involves a complex calculus of factors -- not all of which are within the player’s power to control.